New Report Shows DHS Progress on Fusion Centers, Calls for Additional Improvements

WASHINGTON – A new report finds that the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies are supporting critical information sharing operations but some are struggling to properly track funding. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) highlighted the findings of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which called for continued support for federal fusion centers but called for the Department and its components to establish better guidance for operations and personnel. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), and Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) were also co-requesters of the report.

Fusion centers are run by state and local agencies that partner with the federal government to provide resources, expertise, and information to the center with the goal of maximizing their ability to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity. The GAO report found that fusion centers averaged a score of 92 out of 100 in a 2013 assessment, indicating that policies and procedures are in place to implement key information sharing activities. The report also found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – the lead DHS agency responsible for grant funding – had problems with reporting the amount of federal grants used to support these centers, leading to about $60 million inaccurately categorized. FEMA is currently developing guidance to help grantees better categorize fusion center projects and improve the reliability of grant reporting.

Senator Carper, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: “As GAO explains, fusion centers play a key role in sharing threat information among all levels of government and the private sector. That’s why I am pleased that the Department of Homeland Security has developed programs to better assess fusion center capabilities and address their gaps. I am also encouraged to see that fusion centers are performing well on their assessments. However, it is clear that there is still work to be done. The Department must get a program off the ground to better test and evaluate fusion centers’ performance so that we can see how effective they would be in the event of an emergency. It also needs to put into place a better method of tracking funding so we can better assess how much the federal government spends to keep these critical centers operational without wasting taxpayer dollars.”